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Climbers Pissed About Rock Closure to Protect 18 Rare Frogs

The mountain yellow-legged frog is an endangered species, so closing 1,000 acres of a 655,000 acre park to protect what could be the last 18 of the frogs in the area shouldn’t be a big deal, right?

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Well, those 1,000 acres include what was once a popular rock climbing area, Williamson Rock, and it’s been closed since 2005. The Forest service now says it’ll be closed at least another year. Climbers say they’ve been patient, but want the rock back.

“[The frog is] really on the brink,” said Lisa Northrop, planning officer for the Angeles National Forest. “Almost any activity, swimming, rock climbing, use of the trail, has the potential to impact the frog.”

But climbers seem to think the rock belongs to them, not the animals who have lived there long before humans set sight on the rock.

“Our objective is to have the resource available to climbers while at the same time protecting the habitat of the frog, which is an endangered species,” said Troy Mayr, who formed a group called Friends of Williamson Rock after it originally closed in 2005. “Climbers are working in conjunction with the forest service and trying to come up with a way to keep the species protected and allow climbing access.”

Mayr, however, has not come up with any solution to prevent climbers from hurting the frogs. To their credit, they do advocate that climbers do not go against the closure to access the rock.

But really — can’t you just climb a different rock and let these frogs reproduce and get their feet back on the ground? I understand that this rock is supposed to be particularly beautiful, but forming a group to complain about an action taken to protect an endangered species (complete with a donations page) seems scummy beyond belief.

Photo Credit: feverblue on Flickr under Creative Commons license.




12 comments
  1. Kevin

    It has since been proven that the decline of the MYLF population was and is caused by a competing frog species that is spreading disease to the MYLF.

  2. Michael

    What has not been brought up is the recent discoveries in the area of Frog demise througout the world. Scientists has now found out that the primary killer of frogs currently is a type of fungus that affects their skin’s homeostasis. From what I have read scientists are still trying to find out how this fungus is getting to the tops of these mountains where “no human contact has been made” Because this is a senstive issue and there are many unknowns it only makes sence to be cautous and take it slow.

  3. Howie Stern

    Alex,

    BTW, you were the one in you original post who called us “scummy” That’s a pretty strong word to use against a group that I really feel you know nothing about..

    Howie

  4. Howie Stern

    Alex,

    We have been waiting a few years…The rock has been closed since 2005…The powers that be have been dragging their feet..They extended the closure because the USFS has not filed and environmental analysis as they were required to…This is a bureaucratic issue…

    Think what you want about me but just you appear to be unwilling to accept anything other than a narrow point of view, I prefer to remain open minded about many issues. You guys don’t realize that by extremism, you turn away lost of caring folks…

    Take care,
    Howie

  5. Alex Felsinger

    Howie,

    I never said anything negative about climbers as a whole. I am well aware that many climbers (just like other outdoor sportsmen) are conservationists as well. This is exactly why I am baffled by your efforts to reopen Williamson Rock.

    While you believe that the science does not back the forest service’s decision, I do not think that this is a time to debate. They are not saying that the rock will be closed forever. While you disagree with the closure, I really don’t see why you can’t just wait a few years.

    While I don’t trust the government much at all, I do not see what’s so suspicious about them deciding to close a certain area to protect a species. I welcome skepticism of government actions, but what do you think their motivation for closing the area would be? Some other malicious intent other than protecting the frogs?

    A scientific debate on the topic will never be anything but a debate. Closing the area certainly cannot HURT the frogs, so again — I’d hope you could wait patiently until the rock is reopened. It seems like an awful waste of your time and energy to battle against a government program intended to protect an animal. The government does a lot worse things that you could spend your time fighting against.

    And you’re right that I don’t know you (and that’s great that you take personal steps towards lessening your impact on the earth) but when you make such a blanket statement like “…this whole ‘green’ movement is a bunch of feel good political BS in my opinion” it sheds an entirely different light on everything you’ve said.

    -Alex

  6. Howie Stern

    Alex,

    I appreciate your concern for the frog but I don’t think you know the whole story… I have many friends who work for the forest service in that region(over 20 years service) and the management of the forest is teeming with hidden agendas, ineptitude, and general dysfunction. Friends of Williamson is raising money in order to be able to reach an equitable resolution to all parties. I know a number of the directors personally and they are outstanding, caring, responsible individuals. Nobody wants to see a species go extinct. However, this problem is not unique to Williamson. Biologists are baffled as to a decline in the Sierra as well as general amphibian populations. They though it was trout(a non native species) predation but turns out that was not the major reason. They have a feeling human impact is also not the major factor. With respect to Williamson, the frogs are actually upstream in an area where people and climbers never go, so in effect, our presence has no effect on their population. Frogs are also about a 1/2 mile downstream, again in an area where climbers are not in contact with them. The stream flows underground much of the year at the actual crag, so again, there is no climber contact with the frogs.

    Many climbing areas, including Yosemite Valley, have seasonal closures for things such as raptor nesting. Friends of Williamson is seeking a solution that perhaps is similar in nature. Perhaps closures during specific times will allow the frog to flourish while still allowing climbing…We are seeking a compromise. If you ever actually climbed there you would see that the climbing area is not truly affecting the populations in any way. Now the Pacific Crest Trail further downstream criss-crosses the stream numerous times.

    The other reality is that climbers are only there on weekends. Mid week, there is almost no-one there. On the weekend, we’re only taking about maybe 100 to 150 or so people spread out over a fairly wide area. Only two walls are near the seasonal stream, the other 250 routes are up on the hill sides quite far from the stream. Again, I’ve NEVER seen any amphibian life at the actual climbing area. The only areas i’ve seen life is above or below the area where very few people ever venture.

    Now as far as my true colors, just like i don’t really know you, you don’t know me…I recycle, clean up after my dog, pick up tons of trash every time I run or hike in the back country because I care about where I live. I’m very vocal to every tourist who cuts switch backs on trails, leaves fishing line and beer cans at the lakes, drives their loud ass Harleys though the campgrounds, has fires in the backcountry during restricted times. To me the Sierra’s are my backyard and I take care of them as if they were my own. My ex-father in law is a phd Trout biologist(a true world expert who has spent his life studying ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada) and he clued me in on a lot of the misrepresentations and lies the government, DFG, USFS, and the like try to spit out to the American public. The Forest Service is a government agency and I’m not going to take their word as the ultimate truth as to a situation. You have to agree that the government isn’t always right or trustworthy. There’s a lot of bad science out there so you have to be very careful as to whats true and whats exaggerated. Governments are comprised of people and the sad fact is that people in power have agendas…Some times it’s a good thing, sometimes its a bad thing…

    Now if climbing and and the environment are such a bad mix, why would the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power let us climb 700+ routes along a 3 mile stretch of the Owens river, which is a trout fishery as well as the source of a large quantity of Los Angeles’s water supply…

    Take care,
    Howie

  7. Alex Felsinger

    Howie,

    Thanks for your comment, but you really fail to realize the point. No matter what superficial, historical reasoning you have for wanting to climb this specific rock, it does not change the fact that a very small number of an endangered species would be put at risk by climbers using the area.

    While you can try to turn the tables on me and ask how I live my life, I can promise you one thing: if I were in your situation, I would not argue with the forest service. I would not accept donations to aid in my argument with the forest service. I would simply accept their decision and find a different rock. Tadpoles should not need to be moved in order for the species to escape the impact of humans inside an already protected landscape. This is their habitat and they need some time to recover. Can’t you just be patient?

    Your concluding sentiments regarding the green movement show your true colors. While environmentalism has been co-opted by marketers and big business, their actions do not automatically reflect on the decades-long movement as a whole.

    -Alex

  8. Howie Stern

    Alex,Ghibertil,

    You seem to know nothing about climbers or the history of the area…I have been climbing the last 15 years and spent the good part of my youth and adulthood tromping around the Angeles National Forest (ANF) in ways and places I doubt you could comprehend…

    Climbers in general are some of the most environmentally conscious users of national forest recreation lands…I’ve spent many a day climbing at Williamson Rock and compared to many areas of the ANF, Williamson has remained quite pristine. I am very skeptical of the intentions of the people who brought forward the actions to close not only Williamson but a two mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail which lies downstream of Williamson.(So why aren’t you pissed at the thousands of hikers and runners who pass through this area every year and would like to see the PCT reopened instead of being forced to walk along a dangerous highway for miles to rejoin the trail at Buckhorn?) As for the frogs being at Williamson, the stream there only flows at best five month of the year, the remainder of the time it is bone dry…Where are these frogs supposed to be living? I’ve never seen one and I’ve climbed there every month of the year, stream or no stream for about ten years…The frogs disappeared long before people began climbing at Williamson. If conditions change in an area and a species dies out, that is the normal course of the earth. It’s not the climber’s fault.

    There are so many more areas in the ANF that have been devastated by human impacts than the Williamson area. Go up the West Fork of the San Gabriel sometime and you’ll feel like you are in the bowels of a Mexican barrio. People taking baths in the river, dirty diapers are everywhere and trash and graffiti are abound. Why don’t you yell about that instead of some frog that most people have never heard of…

    BTW, Troy Mayr has come up with numerous solutions to try to alleviate this political fiasco, check your facts before you spray nonsense. In fact, the ANF biologist even recommended relocating tadpoles to other ares as a possible solution to reopening the crag. Additionally, I recall back in the 90’s, way before this situation, Troy and numerous other developers of the crag repeatedly tried to work with the Forest service to build better access to the crag, thereby reducing impacts. We have ALWAYS been a very environmentally responsible group. Of course, being so close to LA, you’re always going to have stupid people doing stupid things, but they’re pretty small compared to the jackasses who come up the crest to party or look at the pretty snow in the winter. Go check out the trash left behind at any day use area. How does that impact the animals, huh. Oh yeah, I forgot, ding dongs and potato chips are a normal part of a black bear’s diet…If more money was spent toward educating the public, then many impacts across the board could be eliminated without having to resort to closures.

    The Angeles National forest should not be a land of no use…It’s not right how the USFWS has handled this matter. They tried to pull the same crap where I live in the Sierra’s with regard to the yellow mountain legged frog…Of course up here, the fishing industry has more money than the climbing industry so the “problem” seemingly disappeared. Funny how that works.

    As far as why don’t us “morons” go climb somewhere else, Williamson happens to be a treasure to climbers looking for a place to climb in the summer where the temperatures are far below 100 degrees. Williamson is an amazing piece of rock in a spectacular setting that is unbelievably, only an hour away for the dirth of smog infested Los Angeles. For most, it is a spring, summer, and fall haven that makes life in LA somewhat more tolerable.

    So, what are your impacts to the environment? Do you walk everywhere? How is your computer powered? Before you chastise an entire community of land users, make sure you look in the mirror…Extremism in either direction is a bad thing…

    I teach high school biology and this whole “green” movement is a bunch of feel good political BS in my opinion…Seems like everything is green nowadays…even real estate agents and developers say their green. Gimme a break. Where does it stop?

    Have a green day 😛
    Howie
    Mammoth Lakes, CA

  9. ghibertii

    You are the most environmentally concerned until it impacts your daily life and then it is all about you. While we allow climbers to make the call on frogs, lets also allow ranchers to make the call on wolves, loggers make the call on owls…

  10. Jason Clements

    I am a climber and those I climb with are some of the most environmentally conscious people I know.

    So whose passion is more important – climbers or froggers?

    Who gets to decide about the area and who has the biggest influence on those decision makers? Unfortunately, deep pockets always win. So the politician’s, with pockets full of contributions from environ group will take the side of the froggers – and probably forever. So cut climbers some slack – we love the environment, too. There is nothing wrong with us.

    Hey Alex, why don’t you interview a rock climber? Get the correct perspective – not just your bias. Take a look at Sterling Rope and Organic Climbing Pads and even the Access Fund.

    Best,

    Jason

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